Washington Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Appointment Violated Law But Governor Doesn’t Care

The Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation presented oral arguments to Washington Supreme Court.

by
posted on May 31, 2024
Washington State Flag Lead

Washington Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Lorna Smith, an anti-hunter, was told by a judge in 2023 that her simultaneous occupation of two appointive offices in the state was illegal. So Smith resigned from her other position and kept her seat on the Fish and Wildlife Commission. Then to protect her and other idealogues he appoints, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, along with Attorney General Bob Ferguson, appealed the judgment of the state superior judge.

Against this backdrop, on May 30, 2024, the Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation argued its claim against Smith and Inslee before the Washington Supreme Court. “This case has far-reaching implications for all sportsmen and -women and whether or not we hold government officials accountable for following the law.” said Michael Jean, litigation counsel for the Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation. “The plain letter of the law is clear: a Fish and Wildlife Commissioner cannot hold another appointive office while serving. We argued before the state’s highest court today to enforce that standard.”

The primary issue is Smith’s occupation of two appointive seats simultaneously, which is illegal under Washington law RCW 77.04.040, which states that anyone who serves on the commission “shall not hold another state, county, or municipal elective or appointive office.” When Smith was appointed to the Fish and Wildlife Commission by Inslee on Jan. 4, 2021, she was also a member of the Jefferson County Planning Commission. In fact until recently, her bio on the Fish and Wildlife Commission’s website explained she was “currently serving her second and third terms” with Jefferson County. Today, it has been updated to read "served."

The Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation sued in March 2023 to have Smith removed from the Fish and Wildlife Commission. It argued its claim before Superior Court Judge Mary Sue Wilson, who issued a declaratory judgment against Smith. Subsequently, Smith resigned from her Jefferson County position.

Then the governor and attorney general appealed Wilson’s decision.

Nine people serve on the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission; they all are appointed by the governor, and serve periods of six years. According to the Sportsmen’s Alliance, Smith is “among a group of new commissioners pushing an extremist view of fish and wildlife management and is adamantly opposed to the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.” In fact she is among five anti-hunters Inslee has appointed to the commission who are responsible for canceling the state’s bear hunt in 2022. In February 2023, Smith led commission discussion of her “draft” to “establish a new wildlife management plan that comes straight out of the anti-hunting playbook to destroy effective fish and wildlife management and remove hunters from the landscape,” according to the Sportsman’s Alliance.

All this matters to Washington hunters, fishers and trappers when they read the primary sentence under RCW 77.04.040, “Commission—Qualification of Members. Persons eligible for appointment as members of the commission shall have general knowledge of the habits and distribution of fish and wildlife and shall not hold another state, county, or municipal elective or appointive office.” However, clearly Inslee paid more attention to one word in the secondary sentence: “In making these appointments, the governor shall seek to maintain a balance reflecting all aspects of fish and wildlife, including representation recommended by organized groups representing sportfishers, commercial fishers, hunters, private landowners, and environmentalists” (emphasis added).

The Sportsmen’s Alliance, based in Columbus, Ohio, works nationwide to defend American wildlife conservation programs and the pursuits that fund them: hunting, fishing and trapping. Alongside the alliance, the Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation “is responsible for public education, legal defense and research.” The Alliance has watched the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission for more than two years, and the foundation sued the commission on behalf of its members and sportsmen throughout the state.

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